The Japanese Ghost Stories of Lafcadio Hearn

The Japanese Ghost Stories of Lafcadio Hearn
“Mitsukini Defying the Skeleton Spectre” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, c.1845.

The dead woman was lying on her face. “Now you must get astride upon her,” said the master, “and sit firmly on her back, as if you were riding a horse. Come! You must do it!”  —from a Lafcadio Hearn story

This week, Litro Lab takes a look at the Japanese ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn and investigates the folklore of kai myths, Noh plays, modern urban legands, and horror cinema along the way.

Hearn was a journalist and travel writer who covered crime stories in Cincinatti, voodoo in New Orleans, and carnivals in the West Indies before settling in Japan in the 1890s. His books on his adopted country helped to fuel the Western obsession with orientalism at the turn of the last century. Hearn is now best remembered for his retellings of the traditional Japanese tales of the supernatural, collected from old texts and from his Japanese wife. His stories have been popular for over a century, influencing everything from literature to cinema.

In this episode you can listen to some of Hearn’s incredibly creepy stories, and to my interviews with folklore scholar Professor Michael Dylan Foster and Hearn expert Professor Roy Starrs on Hearn’s life, his source material, and the influence of his work.

Reading credits:
“The Nightmare Touch” and “The Corpse Rider” were read by Greg Page.
“Mujina” was read by Richard Koworld.
“Ingwa Banashi” was read by Louisa Gummer.
“Yuki Onna” by Charlotte Worthing.
Sound credits: 
“Unanswered Questions” and “Ghost Processional” by Kevin MacLeod (;
Japanese Koto Music, 1966;
Sound effects from freesound — Kongourin-ji bell: MShades, Flute: JohLaVine333, Taiko drum: sandyrb, Whisper: Connum, Running: nathanaelsams, Flute: UncleSigmund, Frogs: eyecandyuk, Walk on dirt road: laurent, Woman cry: thanvannispen, Taiko: whatsanickname4u, Howling wind: medialint.

Emily Cleaver

About Emily Cleaver

Emily Cleaver is Litro's Online Editor. She is passionate about short stories and writes, reads and reviews them. Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press, Paraxis, .Cent, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, One Eye Grey, and Smoke magazines, performed to audiences at Liars League, Stand Up Tragedy, WritLOUD, Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio. As a former manager of one of London’s oldest second-hand bookshops, she also blogs about old and obscure books. You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at and see more of her writing at

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